As accurately predicted by Sunday Newsday, Manning revealed the date yesterday, at the last sitting of the House of Representatives.
He stated, “I would just like to state for the benefit of honourable members and the national community that I have today advised His Excellency the President to dissolve Parliament with effect (from) midnight.”
“Yes!” an exuberant Ganga Singh said, table-thumping. However, the UNC frontbench was muted, while the PNM benches seemed contemplative.
“General Elections will be held in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, November 5 and nomination day is Monday, October 22. Thank you very much,” the PM said, calmly taking his seat. Speaking with reporters afterward Manning said the November 5 date had been determined “a long time ago.”
On the issue of holding the election during the month of Ramadan, Manning said the Parliament “ran out” today. “I didn’t have much control over that,” he said.
Stating that he meant no affront to any religious group, he said whatever one did people would object to it. He added that one view was that it should not be held on Divali day. He said however that he did not think the timing would influence the way that the Hindus would vote.
He said the PNM would be ready with its slate of candidates, which would be presented next Saturday at its big launch. Noting that 35 candidates had been approved already, he said the Screening Committee was due to meet yesterday afternoon to discuss the issue of candidates for the remaining six seats — Diego Martin Central, Point Fortin, Tunapuna, Laventille East/Morvant, Arouca/Maloney and Tobago East and West.
Asked whether the announcement of the date meant that he would be sticking with the incumbents in those constituencies, Manning said: “You can’t predict what the PNM would do. It has a process and we are going through that process. One thing we can assure you is that the party’s constitution is being adhered to,” he said.
Manning denied that Rose Howai, who was screened for the Arouca/Maloney seat and who was charged for fraud yesterday, was approved as the candidate by the Screening Committee.
“She was screened with others. We were not unaware that there were issues involved. That is the advantage of the PNM’s machinery and organisation, that somewhere inside of there somebody knows what has to be done and that those concerns came to our attention in good time,” he said.
said the PNM checked the facts before ruling her out as a candidate.
Manning said the PNM was ready for the election and to fight “all comers.” “The progress of Trinidad and Tobago in the last five years is without precedent and we will stand on our record,” he said. He was confident that the PNM would win, but declined to say how many seats he believed the ruling party would get in the 41-seat Parliament. He was also reticent on the issue of a special majority saying that that was for the people to decide.
If the PNM loses the election? “I would take my jhaji bundle and go,” Manning said.
What if the election throws up a three-way tie between the PNM, COP and UNC? “My responsibility is to ensure that no such thing takes place,” he said. What if it still happens? “The PNM has always stood alone,” he said.
Noting that the PNM had never used polls in the way it has done in this election, Manning said the exercise had given an “excellent view of the lay of the land.”
“It (the election date) is not a hit-and-miss for us,” he said, adding that the party had done a poll only recently.
Manning said what many saw as internal rumblings within the PNM was just the party going through the “very dynamic process” of selecting candidates. “It is not a church,” he said. He conceded however that Thursday’s demonstration outside Balisier House was unusual and contended that this was so because the PNM was going through change “selecting the next crop of politicians in the country.”
Manning, who is 61, said he knows when his day (to go) would come. “And I will assure you that I will not die in office and I will try my best not to be voted out of office,” he said. Stating that he proposed to leave politics “at the appropriate time”, he said this was why he was taking steps to put the next generation of politicians in place.
On the wisdom of having the election coincide with the CJ impeachment tribunal, Manning said: “The truth is that I have not been following it.” Responding to the comment on revelations about his AG in the tribunal, the PM said the AG was not part of the candidate process and that it was for the new prime minister to take to such matters (as are disclosed in the tribunal) into account.
Manning, who met with the EBC chairman and the Chief Elections Officer on Thursday, said they told him that electoral registration had gone well and that a lot of people had responded to it. He said there was no real concern about freeness and fairness in this election.